Many recent immigrants are overqualified for the jobs they end up in, putting them at risk of poor mental health, according to a recent study from the Institute for Work and Health.
The study explored how common overqualification is among new immigrants to Canada and how it affects their general and mental health.
“Many of us have heard accounts of engineers or physicians immigrating to Canada only to find jobs driving taxis,” says IWH research associate Cynthia Chen, the study’s lead author. “In this research, we examined the impact of that kind of overqualification on immigrants’ well-being.”
These workers, who comprise one-half of recent immigrants in the workforce, are more likely to report declines in their mental health than immigrants who are in jobs suited to their education, experience and expectations, according to the study.
For the study, immigrants were considered overqualified if the skills required in their current job in Canada were lower than their level of education or the skills required in their previous job before arriving in Canada.
They were also considered overqualified if the skills required in their current position were lower than what they expected their Canadian job to require prior to immigration.
Based on that definition, the study found:
•52 per cent of these immigrants were over-qualified based on education
•44 per cent were overqualified based on experience
•43 per cent were overqualified based on expectations
Chen and her colleagues analyzed data from the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada (LSIC), administered by Statistics Canada. The sample included 2,685 employed immigrants who had worked before coming to Canada and were in good health upon their arrival.
They were interviewed three times in their first four years and were asked questions about their general and mental health. One of the questions asked if they had experienced any emotional problems such as “persistent feelings of sadness, depression or loneliness” in the last 12 months.
Immigrants overqualified in any of the three ways reported declines in their mental health but not general health.
“Canadian immigration policy selects highly skilled, healthy immigrants to be admitted into this country,” Chen says. “Without proper recognition and use of their foreign educational credentials and work experiences, it is unlikely that new immigrants will achieve their potential in the Canadian labour market.”
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